The Mar Vista home of architects Takashi Yanai and Patricia Rhee started as an average Los Angeles ranch style home. After 8 years, the pair (they’re the Y and the R in  EYRC, Steven Ehrlich’s formerly eponymous architecture studio) decided to transform their home into zen sanctuary, inspired by their roots. Takashi was born in Japan and raised in California, and the minimal aesthetic of the home reflects both locales beautifully.

Takashi and Patti worked with landscape architecture firm Terremoto, opening the back of their house up to the garden, merging the interior space with a private outdoor oasis. In a recent conversation, Takashi told us more about the process:

We’d love to know a bit more about your house. Where is it located?
Our home is in Mar Vista, between Culver City and Venice. We’ve lived here for 10 years, it’s a quiet family-friendly neighborhood and is convenient in the Westside for work. We lived in the home in its original condition for about 8 years before we started alterations. We wanted to put our own stamp on the house, but we had an extremely limited budget of less than $100k, so we were trying to make something out of nothing!

What changes were you hoping to make? Was the home in bad condition?
The condition was fine when we moved in, it was livable but it just wasn’t a reflection of our taste at all. Our inspiration was to craft the space in a way that reflects EYRC Architects ethos, even if the budget doesn’t match what we would have when designing for our clients. I wanted the home to be a reflection of what we believe in.

As an architect, how does designing for yourself differ from working for a client? What do you love (or hate) about it?
I am always interested in trying new ideas so building something and having to live with it for a while is a big decision when you are your own client. The budget was also limited so the challenge was to work with these constraints yet create the same kind of experience we deliver in all of our work. The way we did this was to focus on paring down our interventions to the simplest most impactful moves.  

What are some of the main changes you made?
Some of the themes of EYRC’s work as well as the inspiration for this project are to connect the indoors and out (hence the large sliding doors in the central living space) and the home being a backdrop for living.  Painting the house black was a way to neutralize it, and let our life and objects come to the forefront. There are definitely both Japanese and California Modernist inspirations in the reimagined spaces, a true stamp of EYRC and my own work especially.

Are there any pieces — furniture, art, accessories — that you especially love?
A lot of the art and furniture were designed by friends. The custom bookshelves in the living room as well as the light sculpture are by light and space artist Johannes Girardoni, a recent client and collaborator. Many of the photography works are by Japanese artists including Hiroshi Sugimoto, Daido Moriyama and other younger and less established photographers. Most of the furniture is Eames for Herman Miller. I also love Jasper Morrison (who used to design for Muji) and his understated design that wouldn’t feel out of place in a modest home. Design for everyday life was a theme in the furniture selection. The classic B&B Italia Charles sofa, so named as an homage to the Eames, is understated for an Italian piece.

Were there any design risks that paid off?
Painting the house black was definitely controversial to this friendly suburban neighborhood. We replaced our white picket fence with a rusty wire mesh, which may have confused some neighbors. Ironically enough, I’ve seen a few more people painting their houses black in our neighborhood lately!

We’re not surprised! Let’s talk landscaping. You worked with Terremoto on the outdoor spaces. What were some of your priorities?
I collaborated with David Godshall of Terremoto to create a landscape that was visually appealing to look at, almost meditative. I wanted the exterior spaces to be a place of repose, and the focal point of your experience when indoors especially in the dining room. The landscape design is a mash-up of a Japanese garden with California appropriate plants.  

How long did the project take, and do you consider it “done”?
I definitely don’t consider it done! It’s an ongoing project and in a way we are working completely backwards. We started with the outside landscape and exterior color and worked our way into the main living space and kitchen. Next we’ll tackle the bathrooms. And now I’m tossing around the idea of an addition / ADU.